‘No man was ever more free from bardic pose’
I can remember something of the awe with which at first I looked upon the man of whom I had been told that he was a great poet, but his extraordinary cordiality soon banished that feeling. He had the happy knack of making even a small boy feel that it gave him real pleasure to shake that small boy by the hand or to pat him on the back and talk to him about the little interests of his life. No man was ever more free from bardic pose, and, indeed, from affectation of any kind, than Browning. His dress was simple, his manner was genial, and his appearance, though he was by no means a tall man, was in the highest degree manly and impressive. His massive, noble head was splendidly set on a strong neck; his shoulders were solid, and his chest was deep, a fit generator for the resonant voice with which he held you in conversation. A vision of him standing foursquare and firmly poised rises before me as I write, and I can still feel the grip of his hand and see the kind light in his eyes as he looked into mine. Then my mind’s eye follows him to the dining-room table, where his special decanter of port has been set by his place, and I can hear him, ‘while the great poet rolled us out his mind’,1 throughout the dinner.